For the last two months, we have been taking a look at the topic of apologetics, specifically presuppositional apologetics. As it always does, the introduction to this subject matter causes many people to get completely frustrated and lose interest. For those of you have been keeping up with series, this is the week when we begin to put action to the words; to put our apologetic where our mouth is, so to speak.
Before we do that however, let’s recap and remind ourselves of what we have established. We have discovered that the apologetic task is not only for the elite. To be a Christian is to be an apologist. If we are to be obedient to Christ, we are called to be apologists. We also understand that every would-be objection to the Christian faith is actually a statement disguised as a question. We also discussed the “myth of neutrality,” which simply states that every philosophy or worldview can be traced back to one of two starting points: the authority and autonomy of man or the authority and sovereignty of God. Augustine made this point in his book The City of God and though the names and faces have changed since the fifth century, the basic arguments have not. Finally, we stressed the importance of a Christian apologetic beginning with Scripture and not outside of it. A Christian apologist is theocentric is his apologetic approach, not anthropocentric. We begin with the Scriptures and work out, instead of beginning with human reason and working in.
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1: 26-31).
With that quick review in mind, let’s turn our attention to a recent example from pop culture (and pop science).
Artic Tale is a documentary/film from National Geographic Films that tried to ride the surprising wave of success of an earlier film, The March of the Penguins. Although similar to its predecessor in many ways, Artic Tale is much more bold in its environmentalist message. As do all movies, Artic Tale has an agenda that it is trying to communicate to its viewers and the message in this case is “global warming.” Taking a different approach than the one used by Al Gore in his Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, National Geographic tries to make the point subtly by wrapping the message in an emotional story about a polar bear and a walrus. The take-home message is still the same: man is the problem. His reckless and careless abuse of natural resources and fossil fuels is destroying the habitat and ecosystem of the northern pole. Since this argument is so often trotted out and used by those in the global warming camp, we will interact with it a bit and try to make sense of it using our Proverbs 26 mandate of answering.
First off, we must determine the “statement behind the question” of Arctic Tale. It is obviously coming from an evolutionary angle since this the major operating assumption of the National Geographic organization. The two animals that fill the leading roles of the film are portrayed more as specimens than they are characters. Although the viewer is meant to feel empathy and compassion for them, it becomes clear that the filmmakers have no intention of intervening if their help is needed. When the polar bear’s brother begins to weaken from starvation, the cameras continue to roll and we are left as helpless viewers of a “natural phenomenon.” When the brother dies and the mother and sister bear move on, the film crew follows and communicates the message of “that’s just they way things go.” The film crew will painstakingly preserve every aspect of this brutal natural world, but will not intervene to save a dying bear. This should not come as a shock to most readers familiar with nature documentaries; animals die, kill, and maim quite regularly on Wild Kingdom and the National Geographic Channel. The filmmakers see their job as field research—no more, no less. But then in a final act of Proverbs 26 foolishness, Arctic Tale attempts to put the blame for the deaths of the arctic animals and the changing environment of the north on you and me. It ends by challenging the viewers to “make a difference,” and to “get involved.” In other words, it wants you to do on a grand scale (save the planet) what its own filmmakers weren’t willing to do on a small scale (save the bear). The inconsistency in the message of this film is staggeringly obvious for any who will look a little closer.
Another example of this type of internal inconsistency is in the film Coach Carter. Based around a basketball coach that will not allow his players to excel on the court until they excel in the classroom (and life in general), Coach Carter is a positive film with a positive message…almost. There is a side-story in the movie about a pregnant teenager that completely undermines the positive message that the coach is trying to instill in his players. This otherwise uplifting movie is completely destroyed by its own conflicting messages. And so it is with all arguments that originate in the city of man. We must train our minds to look beyond the surface and dig deeper to really comprehend what is really being said. Pop culture is an easy place to practice and look for these inconsistencies, but they exist all around us. Pop culture is made up of people who are sinful, selfish, and inconsistent—just like we are. We must be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Rom 12) in order to be able to see these blatant inconsistencies in our own lives, much less in the lives and beliefs of others.